The safety issues with China’s food exports may be peanuts compared to the problems with the street and restaurant fare in the country, a recent AP report suggests. Just check out this whopper of a first paragraph:

Chopped cardboard, softened with an industrial chemical and flavored with fatty pork and powdered seasoning, is a main ingredient in batches of steamed buns sold in one Beijing neighborhood, state television said.

In an investigative segment on China Central Television, a man whose face is never shown takes a reporter behind the scenes of his shady bun-making operation, into a tumble-down building “with water puddles and piles of old furniture and cardboard on the ground,” according to the AP. And he reveals his cost-cutting culinary secret:

‘What’s in the recipe?’ the reporter asks. ‘Six to four,’ the man says.

‘You mean 60 percent cardboard? What is the other 40 percent?’ asks the reporter. ‘Fatty meat,’ the man replies.

The whole exchange would be a bit funny if it wasn’t so sad—and ostensibly so true.

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